Author Archives: Staff

Star Traders Worlds: Anderson

Category : Star Traders , Worlds



Poul Anderson (1926 – 2001; first SF publication, 1947) is one of those whose work I will grab solely on the basis of the author; I haven’t been disappointed yet. His novels don’t depend on deep philosophical queries (although he includes that from time to time); they are simply great reads. Anderson’s most well-known settings are the Polesotechnic League and the world of Dominic Flandry of Terran Intelligence, but he has created many other worlds. Time travel is key to some of his other most memorable works, including The Dancer from Atlantis and The Corridors of Time.

Anderson, writing with Gordon R. Dickson, created the Hoka, the original teddy-bear aliens. The Hokas and  the Fuzzies of H. Beam Piper (who doesn’t appear here but deserves an honorable mention) are much more interesting than any more recent marketing-driven creations.

Nicholas Van Rijn, star-faring trader extraordinaire. When I first started considering favorite authors who write about trading through space, Anderson’s Van Rijn leaped to the front of the line. Who couldn’t love the protagonist of The Man Who Counts (both by counting money and in importance), a man who epitomizes what Star Traders is all about? And now that I’m researching Anderson’s works to complete this brief bio, I am embarassed to note one other title that I’m gonna have to track down quickly: Trader to the Stars (about Van Rijn, of course), plus Baen’s recent compilation of stories about Van Rijn’s most adventurous employee: David Falkayn: Star Trader.

Solar Spice

Van Rijn’s company is the Solar Spice and Liquors Company, which, like Van Rijn himself, is a throwback to the Dutch merchant adventurers of the age of exploration. Rather than selecting a specific commodity from the wide range of Van Rijn’s stories, Anderson exports solar spice.

David Ladyman History in Games

Category : Star Traders

I’ll start by dating myself: I was a freshman in college in 1973-74, the year the first Dungeons & Dragons set came out; I’ve still got mine. That was also the year I learned to play Kingmaker. Kingmaker is set in 15th century England, during the Wars of the Roses. Very different from Star Traders, but philosophically very similar. Both are about rolling with the flow and finding the most likely path to victory.

In the late ’70s I started playtesting for Metagaming, whose greatest claims to fame were Stellar Conquest and The Fantasy Trip (both great games). I didn’t test either of those, but I did test a few of their Microgames, including Artifact and One World.

When Steve Jackson split off from Metagaming to form Steve Jackson Games, I started playtesting for him. That included several of his Pocket Games, and then larger games like Car Wars and Illuminati. By the early ’80s I was doing a lot of development and editing work on Car Wars and GURPS. I edited the first few issues of Autoduel Quarterly (set in the fictional autodueling future) and was Car Wars and GURPS Guru for a while, responsible for system development of both series. I wrote a few Car Wars titles myself, including the AADA Vehicle Guides and the first Uncle Albert’s catalogs (ably assisted by my wife, Martha, in her persona as Uncle Al). Jim Gould and I put together the Advanced Collision System for Car Wars. For GURPS, Mike Hurst and I worked out the Size-Range-Speed to-hit modifiers system, and I wrote one GURPS sourcebook: The Prisoner, based on the short-lived television series of the same name. This was also when I designed Star Traders.

After SJG, I developed and edited a few AD&D modules and spent a couple of years working with FASA, on Renegade Legion and Battletech rulebooks, sourcebooks and scenario packs. And somewhere in this period, I created the language relationship table, first for Justice Inc., and then for the rest of the Hero System line that is better known for Champions. The month my contract with FASA ended, I was hired by Origin Systems as their first (and only) Publications Manager.

For almost seven years, my name went on every product that Origin published, since my team created all its manuals and game guides during that time. I had a great team, including Melissa Tyler, Tuesday Frase, Chris McCubbin and Jennifer Spohrer, with Wendi Dunn and Lisa Goodrich on layout. That include all the Ultima products between U7 and U9, and the first few iterations of Ultima Online. It included all the Wing Commanders after WC1. And we created mega-manuals for all the Janes products that Origin created, including Apache Longbow and USAF. We also did game guides for Bullfrog, a sister company once Electronic Arts acquired both of us.

Electronic Arts decided to shut down the Publications department at Origin, and so the five of us formed IMGS, Inc. and continued creating manuals and game guides, most often for Prima games. We somewhat specialized in massive online games, and in the late  ‘90s and early ’00s we created books for Anarchy Online, Asheron’s Call, City of Heroes, Dark Age of Camelot, Everquest I and II, Guild Wars, Lineage II, The Matrix Online, Star Wars Galaxies, and Ultima Online. Plus plenty of other stuff.

Available jobs declined sharply in the latter half of the decade, and eventually I was the only one left at IMGS. I continued doing manuals, for Rift, DC Universe Online, Fallen Earth, The Lord of the Rings Online, Saga of Ryzom, and others. I created manuals for lots of different smaller games and other companies. One major series during this period was the Game Development Essentials textbooks, for which I did layout and media clearance. I also created You Are There, a series of Bible workbooks for teens, again with Martha, and that’s how Ryan and I started working together — he illustrated them for us.

Shortly after we finished the You Are There series, Cloud Imperium launched their now-famous Star Citizen Kickstarter campaign, and a month or two later, Chris Roberts asked me to do Jump Point, the monthly PDF magazine for subscribers. Ryan ended up working with me on that, as well (we’re still working together on it today), and so we were very familiar with each other’s work when he agreed to help with Star Traders; it couldn’t have happened without him.

Star Traders Worlds: Schmitz

Category : Star Traders , Worlds



James Schmitz (1911 – 1981; first SF publication, 1943) didn’t write as much as some of the authors on this list, and his work isn’t deeply philosophical, but among my favorite authors, he is one of my most favorite. Most of his writing is set in the Hub Universe, and his female protagonists are among the eariest in science fiction to have some role other than “scantily clad damsel in distress.” Telzey Amberdon (xenotelepath extraordinaire) and Trigger Argee (expert sharpshooter) are two of the most admirable female characters in all of science fiction, and the Agent of Vega series takes space opera down a couple of unlikely paths.

But the crown jewel of Schmitz’ work (in my humble opinion) is The Witches of Karres. This isn’t deep, insightful literature, just an absolutely delightful adventure with trader captain Pausert, who is piloting a merchant ship throughout the known galaxy (does that ring any bells?), with the three young witches he involuntarily rescues from servitude. They’ve got something everyone else wants, making Pausert’s ship a prime target for … well, for everyone else.

Sheem Spiders

Pausert has taken on a more important cargo than he realizes, including a Sheem Spider, an animatronic, horse-sized creation that is designed to stalk and assassinate. It is a masterwork of a long-dead species, and one of the primary elements in Witches.

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Star Traders Worlds: Bradbury

Category : Star Traders , Worlds


Ray Bradbury (1920 – 2012; first SF publication, 1938), despite his claim to the contrary, was an amazing author of science fiction. (He held that science fiction should be based on reality, and of his works, only Farenheit 451, depicting a future in which all books are banned, met that criterion. The others, including The Martian Chronicles, Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man and Dandelion Wine, were fantasies, because they weren’t possible in the real world.) The Martian Chronicles is definitely out of this world, describing the sporadic colonization of Mars by Humans, and their encounters with the native Martians. The Illustrated Man, Something Wicked and (especially) Dandelion Wine are rooted in Heartland America, which distinguishes Bradbury’s writing from just about every other author on this list.

Fireproof Paper

Fahrenheit 451 is (approximately) the temperature at which paper autoignites, and its protagonist is a “fireman” responsible for burning any book that he finds (and sometimes the entire house around it, as well). He gradually realizes the loss to society and finds a small group of people who are each memorizing a work of literature, for when books will once more be allowed. I suppose you could say they metaphorically mirror the Fireproof Paper that Bradbury exports.

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Star Traders: What They Liked Best

Category : Star Traders

Feedback from over 100 convention playtesters

“Variety of strategies available”
“The combination of strategy and luck”
“Theme is very good; meshes well with mechanics”
“Colorful board with lots of movement, good amount of interaction with other players”
“The sense of needing to mess with players and have good strategies with stations. Definitely also the fact that it was never enraging.”
“Dealing with other players. I could mess up other people but it was friendly.”
“Action dice for turn tracking”
“Good variety of play; rules not too complex”
“Seems to be very competitive”
“The variety the Personalities provide in game style”
“The general concept was good. I liked filling out the galaxy with stations; using them as warp points is satisfying, and contracts are enjoyable to complete.”
“Ability to come back”
“Aggressive, fast, a lot of strategy involved”
“Good variability, no runaway leader”
“It definitely has some interesting strategy”
“It seemed daunting but turned out to be easier as time went on”
“The strategizing and cutthroat competitiveness”
“I enjoyed the station-building aspect, especially after I understood the strategy of where to build”
“Clever card comments”
“The Trader’s Luck cards were interesting”
“Easy to pick up and understand. Dual-purpose action/contract cards”
“Strategically placing the stations and being able to control a portion of the map easily”
“Stations were interesting; nice mechanics with lanes, pickups and deliveries”
“Double purpose cards are a great idea”
“Good mechanics that allowed the lead to shift quickly”
“The cards that allow players to mess with other players”
“Competition for contracts was exciting. Random jumps were fun.”
“The strategy with station placement early on”
“The jump mechanic is rather interesting and requires planning”
“Ever-changing objectives”
“Movement was unique and challenging. The large number of dice rolls made movement average out so that everyone had ups and downs.”
“Love the back and forth”
“Trading & no combat”
“I liked the dice-to-move mechanic. It was nice to roll the die and then decide the action.”
“The theme was cool, like a retro ’80s game. It was competitive but not overly so.”
“Station jumping is awesome.”
“The board was well designed. I liked how simple the pieces were.”
“Emergent gameplay — next play would be different. Controlled yet chaotic gameplay.”
“Overall mechanics”
“Moving around and planning jump contingencies”
“The mechanics worked very well”
“Good game mechanics; liked the nods to all of Sci-Fi”
“Building the space stations gives some cool strategic decisions later in the game”
“The different levels and variety of play. I like that you can choose to have a shorter or longer game. Also really like the idea of the Personalities to change things up a bit. The range of pickups and deliveries is nice.”
“I really like the setup. I thought at first the dice might be a little weird, but in the end I really liked the player mats. The board itself is really cool as well. Can’t wait to see how it all looks in the end!”
“Straightforward rules; cards explained themselves well; seem to be a few layers to strategy”
“Interesting mechanics; easy to pick up.”
“How balanced it was. After initial instructions, it was easy to learn.”
“Straightforward rules with emergent gameplay from the Personalities and Contracts drawn.”
“Good combination of strategy and randomness.”
“It requires a lot of strategy and is fun to compete.”
“It has many options on each action, which makes you think and develop strategy. I also liked the SciFi references.”
“I like that it’s 6-player!!! Also, the speed that contracts roll over and that it’s well laid out — I love the jumplines between and on the arms.”
“The movement options and the dice-counting actions.”
“There are progressive rules that alter the gameplay. It was very easy to learn and explain to others.”
“I liked the map movement layout, the variety of cards with action abilities, and that the action points are free to decide on. It had a great pace to the game.”
“It was very competitive, and swiping contracts was fun.”
“Cards have real-time use, so hoarding isn’t a good option.”
“Balanced gameplay and bartering.”
“Board movement was fluid, “Avoid a Calamity” cards were a lot of fun.”
“Easy to pick up. Just enough depth.”
“The premise was solid, the board was intuitive. Playing cards against each other was fun.”
“Thematically it was really excellent.”
“Resource collection! Base building!”
“Navigation complexity and negotiating with players.”
“I liked it great! I loved the missions, the SciFi references, moving from station to station, and having a good pressure to use Calamity cards. Well balanced!”
“The movement system is well done.”
“Simple but very complex, if that makes sense. Easy to learn but requires luck and skill.”
“The rules were very straightforward. It offered multiple strategies to achieve victory. It was very fun and engaging. I enjoyed all of it!”
“I liked the variety of paths to choose between.”
“It’s easy to learn, and I liked the politics.”
“I liked the strategy, and making agreements with other players.”
“The diplomacy aspect.”
“The movement mechanics were a lot of fun.”
“I liked the back and forth with station routes and contract goals.”
“Fun/casual gameplay and style.”
“Easy to learn. Hard to master.”
“Easy to learn. Quick play style.”
“Clean rules. Easy to pick up.”
“Station placement to mitigate dice luck was cool.”
“The concept of the gameplay was immersive.”
“Planning out moves. Diversity of cards. Cleverness of cards pulling double duty.”
“The core mechanics are sound.”
“Good simple but complex core mechanic.”
“Just enough rules to be enjoyable.”
“Good balance of rule complexity but easy to pick up.”
“An economy game without fighting.”
“The competitiveness related to racing deliveries, and the risks with petitions.”
“Quick to pick up and play.”
“Very strategic.”
“The jumping between planet mechanic.”
“I played Lucky Lou and really enjoyed the bonus. Other players’ Personalities felt like definite bonuses that I’d like to play in the future, too.”
“The risk management elements. It rewarded foresight with station building versus dice rolling.”
“We played with the Insider, Lucky Lou and the Engineer, and they seemed pretty well perfectly balanced. Well Done.”